By Jodie Cain Smith
My writing to-do list is long. A new novel needs to be revised and edited. The marketing plan for my first novel is incomplete. Short story ideas fill notebooks. A script begs daily for my attention, and novel number three wants to be started, but my writing distraction takes priority.
My distraction weighs fourteen pounds and five ounces. With big eyes and a wide grin that would melt the most heinous villain into a puddle of baby talk, Baby Boy beckons. When I lift him from his crib, he nestles his face into my neck, and his eyelashes tickle my skin. Time to write goes the way of the lullaby, disappearing gently into the stillness around me.
Anyone reading this may respond, “Of course, Jodie. He is a baby. He has to be your priority right now.” So, why did I, for weeks after giving birth, feel the pull of my laptop? Why was this pull so strong that I often felt guilty for holding Baby Boy while he slept in my arms rather than placing him in his crib so that I could write? The guilt came because I am a writer, and, must write. Everyday. Or do I?
Over the last four years since I stepped out of the government employee meat grinder in order to write fulltime, I have had plenty of distractions. Theatre rehearsals, social engagements, and weekend getaways with the hubby took me away from my laptop. Two weeks spent moving from one home to another left my laptop untouched other than to research new restaurants, gym hours, audition notices, and a much needed writers’ group, but I was not left with guilt from these distractions. I recently asked myself why not?
Then I remembered a conversation I had with a peer last summer. We discussed a mutual friend of ours. He is young, really young, in that way that people in their late thirties view college kids. So young. He’ll learn. I can hear my own inflated sense-of-self casting judgment. His writing skills are there. What he needs is life experience, my peer and I agreed.
Yes, I do believe having a rich, life experience to draw on is important to every writer. After nearly forty years on Earth, I am still trying to understand and fully capture in words the human experience. I look back to my childhood, adolescence, and burgeoning adulthood for inspiration. So, why did I forget that distractions are beneficial and that from distractions new inspiration will come?
Because I never knew until becoming a mother that some distractions are quiet, with only the tiny sound of two brand new lungs doing their job. Some distractions snuggle into the crook of an arm and coo as they drift off to sleep. And some distractions get pretty angry, if after Baby Boy has fallen asleep in my arms, I try to sneak him into his crib for his afternoon nap and tiptoe to my office.
Thankfully, and just in time for Mother’s Day, I have remembered that our distractions are what we actually write about. Without them, what stories do we have to tell? From the looks of the angel smiling at me from his swing, I will be distracted and inspired for years to come. I hope your distractions inspire you to write as well.